Fourth of July Fireworks Banned in Several Cities Across U.S. West

Families purchase fireworks five days prior to the 4th of July at a fireworks stand on Monday, June 29, 2020 in Hawthorne, California. Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

Record heat and extreme drought have caused several cities in southwest Washington, Oregon and California to ban fireworks this Fourth of July, citing wildfire concerns.

Due to the extreme conditions, lighting fireworks at home could create a tinderbox-like situation, according to The Guardian.

On Monday, Portland saw its hottest temperatures yet — a record high of 116 degrees Fahrenheit. The fire department issued a ban on fireworks, according to KATU.

In addition to Portland, Tualatin, and Bend have also prohibited fireworks through July 9. Despite the ban, Bend still has two public fireworks shows scheduled. In Bend, violators can face up to a $750 fine. Tualatin officials unanimously passed the ban on fireworks.

“If we don’t take this proactive step now, I fear the consequences could be devastating,” the Portland fire chief, Sara Boone, said in a statement. “It is not easy to make a decision like this so close to our national holiday, but as fire chief, I feel I have a higher responsibility to sometimes make unpopular decisions during unprecedented times to protect life, property and the environment.”

Ashland, Oregon, has had a ban on all fireworks for years and is canceling its public, annual firework show out of precaution. Jacksonville just issued its own firework ban, according to KOBI15.

In Washington, the city of Vancouver has existing bans on the use of fireworks. Due to the dry, hot conditions, Battle Ground, Camas, and Washougal joined Vancouver on its ban on firework sales and use, according to KATU.

Due to the significant fire risks, Clark County officials’ ban of firework sales and usage went into effect on June 29 and will last until midnight on July 4, according to The Guardian.

“This was a very difficult decision to make, but in consideration of the elevated fire danger, it was deemed the only decision possible to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods, communities, and green spaces,” Camas-Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart said to KATU. “The threat of fireworks causing a fire in these extreme conditions is too high to allow the use of fireworks this July 4th.”

On Tuesday, Yreka, California, which is located near the still-burning Lava Fire, has also announced its ban on fireworks, according to KOB15. Also on Tuesday, Etna and Weed in California announced their fireworks bans.

“Its tough to make that call,” Yreka Mayor Duane Kegg said to KOBI15, when choosing to ban fireworks. “Right now our resources are really hurting, so if we were to have any other major instances come through the Yreka area, it would greatly impact the safety and well being of our citizens.”

In addition to Oregon, California and Washington, other U.S. cities have banned fireworks this year, including several municipalities in Utah and Montana. Furthermore, some tourist venues have canceled their shows, according to The Guardian.

“The grass always catches on fire … Why are we doing something that causes fire when fire’s our biggest issue?” Winnie DelliQuadri, a town projects manager in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, said, according to the Associated Press.

The 2021 wildfire season could surpass the devastation seen in 2020, the worst wildfire season on record, according to the Los Angeles Times. Last September, a pyrotechnic device used at a gender reveal party caused a California fire that killed a firefighter and burned the second-highest amount of land in 40 years, according to the Associated Press.

This year, fireworks have already started a couple of fires — one in central California, and another in Utah, which was started by a child, according to The Guardian.

“As a fire scientist, I’m bracing myself for this fire season because of how dry and hot it is already,” Jennifer Balch, the director of Earth Lab at the University of Colorado, told the Associated Press. “I think fireworks right now are a terrible idea.”

Audrey Nakagawa is the content creator intern at EcoWatch. She is a senior at James Madison University studying Media, Art, and Design, with a concentration in journalism. She’s a reporter for The Breeze in the culture section and writes features on Harrisonburg artists, album reviews, and topics related to mental health and the environment. She was also a contributor for Virginia Reports where she reported on the impact that COVID-19 had on college students.

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